In the pay of Big Pharma

Anyone who has ever been involved in any online discussion of quack alternative medicine will no doubt be familiar with the “pharma shill gambit“. It’s a favourite debating technique of supporters of various forms of quackery, pseudoscentific alternative medicine, and woo. When a supporter of homeopathy or whatever has the facts pointed out to them, they respond by saying that the other person is obviously being paid to say that by Big Pharma. For example…     But there’s something … Continue reading

Rules are for the little people

One of the most fundamental principles of the ethics of research involving human subjects is that of informed consent. This applies in clinical research and in social science research. If you are going to experiment on people, you need their permission first. And note the word “informed” in the phrase “informed consent”. It’s not enough that someone ticks a box on a form: for consent to be ethical, it must be properly informed. The people giving consent to be experimented … Continue reading

Self-driving cars

Self-driving cars have been in the news a lot recently, for example here. Two things seem clear to me about self-driving cars. First, it’s an exciting new technology which at some stage in the future will be a massive game-changer in the way we travel. Second, it’s not yet ready for prime time. I wouldn’t like to make predictions about when we will all be travelling around in self-driving cars and laughing at the days when we actually had to … Continue reading

Do 1 in 3 women really have an abortion?

My attention was recently attracted by an advert for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in which they claimed that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion. I found that statistic surprising. I asked BPAS on Twitter what the source of that statistic was, and to their credit, they tweeted back with a link to a peer-reviewed publication by Stone and Ingham which did indeed state that 1 in 3 women in Britain will have an abortion in their lifetime. However, … Continue reading

Clinical trials transparency

I’m currently at the EMWA conference in Budapest, where this morning I attended a fascinating symposium on clinical trials transparency (the symposium went on all day, but I was teaching a workshop on critical evaluation of medical literature this afternoon, so sadly I couldn’t stay for the afternoon session). There is no doubt that transparency of clinical trial data is a hot topic at the moment. It is certainly to be welcomed that it is being so widely discussed these … Continue reading

Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and taxation

You would have to have been living under a rock somewhere to have missed the news that Pfizer is looking pretty seriously at a takeover of AstraZeneca. There may be many good reasons why drugs companies merge, but there are also incredibly bad reasons. In this case, I rather suspect we are looking at the latter kind. Many commentators who know more about these things than I do have suggested that a large part of Pfizer’s motivation is that acquiring … Continue reading

Care for the elderly

The top story I woke up to on the radio this morning was of allegations of mistreatment of elderly patients at a care home. This seems to be part of a disturbing pattern: mistreatment of the elderly (and other vulnerable people) in care homes is far more common than it should be. No doubt the care workers responsible will be disciplined (one has already been sacked in this latest case) and some may face criminal charges. That is as it … Continue reading

Wages and prices

An allegedly good news story today is that “wages catch up with inflation”. It’s a while since I’ve seen a more misleading statistic. Wages have not caught up with inflation at all. What has happened is that the annual rate of increase in wages (now 1.7%) is greater than the annual rate of increase in consumer prices (now 1.6%). However, given that prices have been increasing faster than wages for some years now, wages have quite a bit of catching … Continue reading

Tamiflu: it’s a bit more complicated than that

Tamiflu is in the news again today. You will no doubt have read about how the government wasted vast sums of money on stockpiling Tamiflu, which today’s new research shows is completely ineffective. Well, that’s what the press release said, anyway. And journalists are pretty good at regurgitating press releases. Here are some examples (though to be fair, they do at least all include a very brief mention that Roche disagrees, if you read that far). The reality, however, is a … Continue reading

Dianthus Medical now has a YouTube channel

We have now well and truly joined the social media age with our own YouTube channel. Our first video is about my recent trip to Vienna for the DIA conference. We’re very much open to suggestions about what other content you’d like to see on there. Video explanations of interesting statistical phenomena, perhaps? Or anything else. Please let us know if you have any ideas.